The California Supreme Court ruled that silence can be used against a suspect in a court of law.
The court reviewed a 2007 vehicular manslaughter case Thursday and reinstated the felony conviction of the accused, Richard Tom.
The San Francisco Bay area crash left an 8-year-old girl dead and injured her mother and sister.
Tom was given seven years after police said he was speeding when he collided with the car. Prosecutors argued that Tom’s failure to ask about the welfare of the victims immediately following the wreck was an indication of guilt.
The court ruling means prosecutors in future cases could use suspect silence, before they invoke their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination, against them.
"It's a very dangerous ruling," Tom’s attorney Marc Zilversmit said. "If you say anything to the police, that can be used against you. Now, if you don't say anything before you are warned of your rights, that too can be used against you."
"It's a bad and questionable decision," Dennis Fischer, a longtime criminal appellate lawyer, told ABC News.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes